Notes on the Ayala Museum

ayala museum, ayala museum diorama, georgina zobel padilla, premio zobel, fernando zobel

The last time I saw Ayala Museum was in 1989. I was a grade 5 student in Makati. If I remember it correctly, the museum was then located along Ayala Avenue, near where Makati Stock Exchange stands today.

What stuck in my mind from that school excursion was the diorama. It made a huge impression on me. To this day, when Ayala Museum is mentioned this exhibit is the first thing that comes to mind.

Yesterday, when I visited the museum, after more than two decades of absence, the first question I asked the staff, “the diorama is on what floor?”

The photo of the Chinaman and a child is from the Philippine Magazine. The cover of this magazine was created by Filipino illustrator Gabino Reyes Congson. Ayala Museum is honoring this artist, exhibiting some of his work on the same floor as that of the dioramas.

The dioramas were meticulously crafted by the artisans of Paete. There’s around 60 of them. It took five years to complete the project. The detail on the figurines is something to behold. I remember our history teacher, Mrs. Ceremonias, pointing out to us Pres. Marcos’s likeness in the “Death March” display.

My favorite diorama is the scene of Bonifacio publicly tearing up his cedula. Aside from key historical figures on the makeshift stage, the entire setting is surrealistic. You could see people going about their business, children playing, women cooking and men getting excited by what is being said on that stage.

I wonder if they come alive when the museum closes shop—like that Ben Stiller movie.

There were other exhibits in the museum. Fernando Zobel de Ayala’s abstract art occupies the entire third floor. While I don’t understand this style of painting it is worth seeing. I have accepted that abstract art is something that’s just not for me!

While viewing the paintings, I remembered Sionil Jose’s article about the painter. The novelist saw Fernando’s work in Guggenheim but was told that the exhibit were from a contemporary Spanish artist. Puzzled, he telephoned the artist when he went back home. He asked if he’s Spanish and the artist confirmed that he was. This infuriated him to the extent that he called on his reader to disregard the painter as a pioneer in Filipino art.

Perhaps, he meant, that he’s a Spanish citizen—but his roots are here. He spent most of his life in this country. Tell me, how many American celebrities would announce their familial links here only when they’re promoting their shows?

By the way, most of F. Sionil Jose’s books are available in Ayala Museum’s shop.

A member of the Ayala family that I admire is Georgina Padilla Y Zobel, granddaughter of Don Enrique, who created the Premio Zobel in 1920. She’s republishing our priceless literature in Spanish. She does not have to but she’s a believer in promoting our hispano-filipino tradition.

We have lost a great deal of our Spanish literature. It’s a shame that our past and present leaders has neglected our literary heritage in Spanish.

With the exception of Rizal, all writers who wrote in Spanish has had the misfortune of getting completely ignored by their countrymen.

The La Oveja de Nathán, written by one of our greatest novelist, Cebuano Antonio Abad, was recently reprinted through Dona Georgina’s initiative. There are more hispano-filipino books that she  intends to republish according to the historian Guillermo_Gómez_Rivera, one of the last awardee of the Premio Zobel.

The soft bound copy of La Oveja de Nathán is priced at P500 in the Ayala Museum.

You could enter the museum for P150, much less if you’re a student. I would be less interested in Philippine history today if it were not for the Ayala Museum.

Go see the dioramas! Bring the kids! Go see the Ayala Museum!



7 responses to “Notes on the Ayala Museum

  • Neopelagianus

    Abstract art, shall I say, is best relegated to floor tiles and the like and not on a canvas or be the center of attraction, which is traditionally and properly reserved to realism.

    • De AnDA

      @mylesgarcia – love Sansó. He’s Filipino. If you grew up bathing in Pasig river, you must be, right? 🙂

      @Neopelagianus – You’re not alone in that
      opinion, sure, but as for myself, I’m trying to understand it. The question is, will I ever? hahaha

      • mylesgarcia

        @De AnDA, of course, I’m always right — without having to have bathed in the Pasig. I know that. 😉

      • Neopelagianus

        The reason abstract art is now the centerpiece and is being applied to the canvas is probably due to the influence of Picasso and other abstract painters.

        But then again, another reason is probably the artists wanted to express their inner conditions and thoughts in a way that realism cannot. Or probably they are not creative enough or not trained to make a Caravaggio, a Da Vinci, or a Raphael.


  • mylesgarcia

    What about Juvenal Sanso? How would you classify him? He’s just the reverse of Fernando Zobel. Sanso was born in Spain but grew up and for the most part calls the RP his home. But you wouldn’t class him as a “Spanish” artist because he’s done his time in Manila. Which is exactly the same logic I apply to having no problem of F-Zobel being classed as a ‘Spanish artist.’ It’s the amount of time done. Or I guess, we can call such people hybrids because technically, I am also Filipino-American, having spent more years now in the US than the first 24 years I had, growing up in the RP. Perhaps, it’s best to ask the actual individuals themselves and ask them exactly what nationality they feel like? Besides, back to Zobel, his modern art is NOT exactly Philippine abstract art. I mean abstract art is just that — it defies any national boundaries or being pigeon-holed as of a specific culture.
    BTW, thanks for signing up on my “Olympic ceremonies” blog. As you’ve probably seen; that is long dead. I had forgotten that I even started that one. BTW, the latest edition of my book, just came out and with the new printing processes they used, it really looks good–if I may say so myself.

  • mylesgarcia

    De AnDA, hats off to you for admitting that abstract art isn’t your cuppa tea and making no apologies for it. Me too; I think it’s just B/S that tha artists play upon an unsuspecting public. Good for you if you don’t buy or buy into such an inexplicable medium (I wouldn’t even call it art).

    However, I take issue with your classing Fernando Zobel as “Filipino.” I believe by choice, he has made himself “Spanish.’ When was the last time he lived in the Philippines? As an adult, he could’ve chosen to live in Manila, like most of his kin, but he chose to live and do his art in Spain. Which is fine, I am not passing judgment on that at all. It’s just that by choice of longevity of time where to reside, it would not be incorrect to classify F. Zobel as Spanish…because that is how I would categorize him. But his art is another matter. I, too, am underwhelmed by his work. When I saw a retrospective of it at the Asian Art Museum in SF, under the auspices of the Ayala Museum, I was like — huh?? this is Zobel’s art? The only explanation I have for his recognition is that he belongs to a distinguished, aristocratic lineage, kinda like being a Medici or along those lines.

    As for those who read Filipino literature in Spanish — really, how many are there left in the Philippines? What, 4 dozen ex-Spanish professors?

    BTW, I will have an article on Luis Logan Pellicer (there’s a Filipino boxer who boxed a lot in Spain and South America in his heyday in the 1930s), coming out next week in POSITIVELY FILIPINO.

    • De AnDA

      “4 dozen ex-Spanish professors” — yeah, or maybe even less? But Spanish speakers are increasing, thanks to the economic demands but no assurances there that they would read Recto or even Rizal in Spanish.

      As for Fernando, I respect you opinion. But someone like that is Filipino on my book. If even if he becomes a citizen of Iceland. Same goes with Garcia Villa or even Bien Santos. They are American citizen alright, that’s their decision but they can still call themselves Filipinos because they are….

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